The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Avery Williamson will step up and take over a starting role for the remainder of the season.
Explanation: While they did not acquire him for the purpose of inserting him directly into the starting lineup, the Steelers were well aware of Avery Williamson’s extensive history. If he plays well while Robert Spillane is sidelined, it is possible that he could assume the bulk of the snaps moving forward.
Considering the fact that he is still relatively fresh to the Steelers’ defensive system, the amount that Avery Williamson has already been able to contribute is not insignificant. Some of the growing pains will be necessary and will only be corrected through playing time.
Spillane could be out a couple of weeks, and that will give Williamson enough time to get himself situated into his role, an important part of which will be showing that he can effectively be the defensive communicator on the field, as Spillane was.
My guess is that they view Williamson’s skill set as closer to being that of an every-down player than Spillane—after all, they thought that of Mark Barron last year as well, so you can’t put it past them. That may be the biggest feather in his cap, if they feel he would be of more assistance on passing downs, though both would still likely see playing time.
While he has gotten on the field in recent weeks, largely at the end of games that were more or less decided, the reality is that when he has been on the field, mistakes have been made. Time logged can help some of them, but this unit cannot afford communication breakdowns.
Spillane has been very solid in that task, and has more than a year of experience in the Steelers’ system, including all of this past year. They like what he does on running downs, so if anything, Williamson might earn a sub-package role for third-down situations or something like that, rather than taking on the larger bulk of the snaps.